Monday, February 14, 2011


1999 marked the 50th anniversary of the printing of George Orwell's 1984. Secker & Warburg marked the event by publishing a wonderfully lush printing of the classic text.

Illustrations communicate the dark foreboding tone of the novel opposed to actual scenes. (The Illustrations are reproductions of silk screened collages by Alex Williamson)

The design of the actual book itself—done by Robbie Mahoney—is I believe, a moving example of Ergodic Design. The sensation of being watched, of annoyingly obtrusive blaring announcements, and of shifts in tone are communicated through clever sometimes subtle shifts in the design.

A brilliant stroke to have the "two minutes hate" in red against yellow background, communicates the harsh invasiveness of the blaring announcements.

Boxes appear on each page mark section changes and reveal that "big brother" is always there... and on the spine of the book the words "is watching" is embossed under the book jacket—just as a reminder.

Clear varnish text on the endpapers remind the reader that "war is peace", "freedom is slavery", and "ignorance is strength"...

And then there is this subtle change in the weight of the font that communicates the change in the scene—of hope turning to despair...

I wonder if visual elements, like these, might make a book more accessible to some contemporary readers, who might not otherwise be interested in reading classic literature.

1 comment:

  1. I ordered a copy of this edition as soon as I heard it was to be released in 1999. The standard of printing and finish are superb - akin to Folio Society issues. The haunting illustrations add further gravitas to the text. If you want a copy of 1984, this is the one to get.